Isn’t Everyone Who Writes a Writer?

There seems to be a general idea that anyone who picks up a pen and makes words with it is a writer. In the literal sense, yes they are. But in actuality? No, they’re just someone writing words. And whilst that is an important part of being defined as a writer, it’s only one part. Writing is available to pretty much everyone as a means of self expression, but only true writers wield it with flair and precision. In the rather grim words of Margaret Atwood, ‘everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.’

Thomas Mann quote
Image from The Write Practice.

Writing is an art form. Like any other artistic pursuit, it is a craft. It needs to be learned, practiced, slaved over, and perfected. No writer ever merely picks up a pen and like magic has a masterpiece, same as no painter picks up a brush and automatically creates something worthy of hanging in the Tate Britain Gallery, and no composer grabs a baton and instantly has a piece of music to rival Mozart.

Also, I’ve been told that you’re not a writer until someone reads your work, which personally I think is nonsense. Just look at Emily Dickinson. No-one read the hundreds of poems she wrote until after her death, but that didn’t change the fact she had still written them and was therefore still a writer.

 Writers don’t just write. They look at the world through different eyes. Everything is a potential story, everyone is a potential character. Writers question their surroundings, and are never satisfied with the answers so they make up their own. The brains of writers are constantly ticking over plots, which narrative position to use, where the perfect place to hide a body is, and which notebook of the plethora scattered over their desk they intend to use for which project. Writers are never still. Even when they’re asleep they’re dreaming, and often they wake at 3am and have that much needed ‘aha!’ moment. Subsequently followed by fumbling around in the dark for a pen and paper, because they never learn to keep them beside the bed or to turn the light on first. I know this is a classic writer stereotype, but trust me, it happens.
Image from Katie Ganshert.

A writer is a type of person, not just anyone who writes. For people dedicated to writing, it’s more than a hobby or means of self expression. It’s their life and soul, something they need like air. For some lucky enough it’s also a way to make a living. Writing can be a career, not just something to casually take up every now and then.

Next time someone tells you they’re a writer, indulge them. Keep them talking, and ask them how they see the world. When they answer, you’ll know whether they are telling the truth.

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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

2 thoughts on “Isn’t Everyone Who Writes a Writer?

  1. Thank you! That's a wonderful attitude to have towards writing, too. None of us really ever know what we'll create, we just have ideas and know they'll become something.

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